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Thursday, 19 October 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - When Senator Pearce moved the second reading of this Bill, he made a statement which I believe I repeat with sufficient accuracy, when I say that it was to the effect that the object in view in framing this Bill was to give electors, as far as possible, every facility for recording their votes in such a way as would be fair to all political parties. Accepting that statement at its face value, as I do, I venture to say that the Government are. entitled to the heartiest possible congratulations for the success with which they have disguised that effort. If ever there was a Bill in connexion with which we might defy any one to discover any intention to enlarge the facilities of electors, it is this Bill! If it is possible to shape a Bill which more effectually than this would confer distinct advantages on one political party, I should like to see the measure. As party men, honorable senators no doubt take strong views, but I do not think any one will, venture to challenge the statement that in our work as legislators in the shaping of a Bill designed to give electors every reasonable and fair opportunity of getting their voices heard, and their views given expression to here, there ought to be no room for party action. Whilst these may be considered somewhat strong words, I shall endeavour to prove that I have not made any statement which the clauses of this Bill do not amply justify. Before dealing with these larger issues, it would, perhaps, be convenient if I were to refer to one or two minor defects of the Bill, to get them out of the way. The first tiling that attracts my attention is the drafting of this measure. For some reason or another, there has been a departure from the form for which we are indebted to the late Right Honorable C. C. Kingston. To that gentleman, above all others, we owe a debt of gratitude, inasmuch as he introduced a system of simplicity in the drafting, of our legislative enactments. To a great extent the model he established has been followed, but in this measure we have an extraordinary departure from that simplicity, and indeed from the usual method of drafting Bills. For instance, I find in clause 8, and the proposed new section 6ic, this statement -

II shall be the duty of every person who is -entitled to be enrolled as an elector - and so on. We are not setting out here any moral lectures. We ought to provide a simple, direction to the electors as to what they are to do. If we turn to other portions of the Bill, we shall find that an officer is told to do so and so, and the measure tells him that he shall do it. That is the language hitherto invariably employed in bur Acts of Parliament. It is easy to see where this phrase, " It shall be the duty of every person" comes from. It is taken almost wholly from the memorandum prepared by the Department for the guid- ance of the Minister. Whilst such a phrase may be appropriate in a departmental memorandum, it is altogether out of place in an Act of Parliament, and the proposed new sub-section to which I have referred should read, " Every person who is entitled to be enrolled as an elector," and so on. To use the phrase used in this Bill is to depart from that commendable simplicity in drafting for which we are indebted to the late Mr. Kingston.

I now direct attention to sub-clause 3 of the proposed new section 61c, which is so cumbersome in construction that it is necessary for me to read the whole ..of it -

The regulations may prescribe all matters, not inconsistent with this Act, necessary or convenient, to be prescribed for carrying a system of the compulsory enrolment of electors and the compulsory transfer or change of electors from one roll to another roll into effect, and may prescribe penalties not exceeding Two pounds for any contravention of any regulation made in pursuance of this power.

If honorable senators will look into that sub-clause they will notice how cumbersome and unnecessarily involved it is. It will be seen that the words " into effect " should have followed the word " carrying." That would have made the paragraph simple, but as it stands I am entitled to refer to it as a very clumsy and schoolboy effort at draftsmanship.

Turning to matters of serious importance, the first thing to which I direct attention is the power sought to be conferred by this Bill on the Chief Electoral Officer to become a party in a case of a disputed election. I invite attention to the rather serious prospect held out here. At present, in the case of a disputed election, the matter goes before the Court, and the parties immediately concerned are left to fight it out without, at any rate, the open aid of the Government on behalf of either. What is now proposed is that the Chief Electoral Officer, which means the Government - there need be no mistake about that, because the Chief Electoral Officer will not himself interpose, with the possibility of having to foot his own bill of costs - shall become a party in the matter. Certainly the. Chief Electoral Officer will have, the sanction of the Government, and will, I should say, be moved by them. Therefore, the Government of the day, who, as the Government, should stand entirely clear of these matters of disputed returns, will, under this Bill, take action in connexion with them.

Parliament itself has recognised the desirability of keeping Parliament, an institution composed of men holding strong party views, from dealing in any way with these matters. We have, deliberately put from ourselves the right to interfere in disputed elections, knowing that, being human, our political sympathies are liable to sway us to some extent. But here is an attempt made to have the Government of the day brought in as a party to a disputed election. Although honorable senators opposite may for a few months console themselves with the idea that it is their Government that will he concerned, I may remind them that all things are fleeting, even Labour Governments. I ask honorable senators' to consider whether it is desirable to authorize the Administration to become an active party to a dispute of this character. I might anticipate an argument which will probably be used in favour of the proposal. It may be said that not infrequently the administration of the Electoral Department itself may be involved in a case before the Court of Disputed Returns. It " is possible that in a case of that kind it might be desirable to allow the Department to be represented.

Senator St Ledger - But in such a case the Department could easily, ask leave to intervene.

Senator MILLEN - Senator St. Ledger anticipates me. I was about to say that, unless the Government desire by this to achieve a purely party object, I would urge them - for I am sure that honorable senators generally have no sympathy with such a desire - to keep the approaches to the Court, as far as possible, free from the active participation of any Administration. I should be quite willing to agree to the insertion of a provision giving a right to the Electoral Officer to ask the Court for leave to appear. That leave would be asked for only when the administration of the Department was to some extent challenged. But then, and then only, should the Administration have a right to be represented. So far as the case under consideration was merely one between two candidates for election, I say that the Government and the Department ought to stand quite out of the way, and leave the two interested parties to fight out their issue before the Court. There is another aspect of this clause which must be borne in mind. The Bill before us proposes to remove the ^100 limit in respect of costs. Under the existing Act, no costs can be given against the defeated party to a case before the Court of Disputed Returns in excess of £100. That limit, as I say, is struck out. Why, I do not know. So that, if any one brings a case before the Court of Disputed Returns, and the decision goes against him, he may not only have to pay his own bill of costs, and the costs of the other side, but may also be faced with a demand for the payment of the costs of the Department. Under this Bill, if it is passed into law in its present shape, with the £100 limit struck out, the unsuccessful candidate may possibly be overwhelmed wilh the amount of costs that he will have to pay. This is a complete reversal of all that we have hitherto provided for in our electoral law. We have sought to insure that the mere possession or absence of wealth should not, in itself, be a barrier to anybody in respect of electoral matters. But if this Bill passes into law, it means that the only man who will be able to launch an appeal before the Court of Disputed Returns will be he who is in a position to pay, not only his own costs, but possibly the costs both of his successful opponent and of the Department.

One other little matter in the Bill to which I would call attention must, 1 think, be a misprint. It is stated in clause 41 -

Section 206 of the Principal Act is repealed.

I cannot think that that is intended. It must, I think, mean that section 206D of the principal Act is repealed.

Senator Findley - The letter d is to be inserted.

Senator MILLEN - I thought it must be so. Otherwise there would be serious ground for discussion. In view of the Minister's statement, I pass from that point.

Senator Walker - The Bill says " 206D " in my copy.

Senator MILLEN - Possibly in consequence of the friendly relations between Senator Walker and the Government, he has received a revised copy.

Senator Findley - An amendment has been circulated.

Senator MILLEN - Apparently an error has been made in some copies. Nothing more need be said upon the point. Another provision to which I call attention is that which lays it down that offences against the Act or regulations can be kept alive for three years. That is to say, at any time within three years after an election, any one who feels disposed can launch proceedings against a successful candidate. J ask honorable senators to bear in mind what these electoral offences are, concerning which proceedings may be taken. I am not speaking of bribery, corruption, or other indictable offences. It is reasonable that there should be no time limit with regard to proceedings of that kind. But when we are dealing with electoral offences, I do say that it is going too far to enable any man to hold over for three years the right to commence proceedings against a political competitor. To do that would be monstrously unfair. It would be possible for some one to hold over a charge until the eve of the next election.

Senator Needham - During the whole life of a Parliament.

Senator MILLEN - Yes ; and when the next election was about due, it would be possible for the person to commence proceedings, with a view of damaging his political opponent.

Senator St Ledger - And shutting his mouth.

Senator MILLEN - And shutting his mouth, because the case would then be before the Court. Further than that, if honorable senators look through the list of offences - most of which are very minor - it is obvious that in three years' time the possibility of obtaining evidence to rebut a charge would be considerably weakened. I am at a loss to know why the Government have been careful so to shape the clause as to enable any one, three years after an alleged offence has been committed, to institute proceedings. I repeat that I am not now dealing with indictable offences, but merely with offences known technically in this legislation as offences against the Act or regulations. I think it will take very strong arguments indeed to show the wisdom of the provision to which I am calling attention.

Senator St Ledger - The usual term is six months ; after that, no prosecution.

Senator MILLEN - Six months would appear to me to be a very reasonable period. I put it to honorable senators in this way : Half of the members of this Senate were returned at an election which, took place eighteen months ago. Suppose any person came along and made a charge against any member of the Senate of having been guilty, of certain irregularities committed prior to the 13th April of last year. Is it not obvious that the man against whom the charge was made would be very seriously handicapped indeed owing to the lapse of time between the alleged offence and the making of the charge? Would it not be difficult for him to obtain evidence to rebut the allegations? How much greater, then, will the difficulty be if we allow a person to hold over a charge for three years. T trust that in this matter honorable senators will take a common-sense view and insist on providing that the term shall be very much shorter.

I now come to a matter of considerably greater magnitude. Whether this be intended or not, I do not know ; but the Bill as it stands practically abolishes the right of a candidate to ask for a recount. That is not specifically provided in the Bill, but what I have described arises from the method that is being adopted, with a view, I think, of enlarging the right and simplifying it. The effect, however, is practically to abolish it. That comes about in this way : If honorable senators look at the Act itself, they will find that section i6ia provides as follows -

At any time before the declaration of the poll-

I draw breath to emphasize the fact that we are dealing with the period before the declaration of the poll. It will frequently happen that it is not until after the declaration of the poll that a candidate will know whether he wishes to apply for a recount or not. Before the declaration of the poll, he can only have figures which are not official. He may not, until the poll is declared, have an opportunity of gathering up the information necessary to enable him to determine, in his own mind, whether he will be justified in asking for a recount. Before the declaration of the poll, then - the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State may, if he thinks fit, on the request of any candidates or on. his own motion, direct a recount of the ballot-papers from any division or portion of a division, or of the ballot-papers contained in any parcel.

That gives power to the Electoral Officer of the State, either of his own volition or at the instance of a candidate, to recount the papers. The Bill, however, in addition to that, gives the candidate the right to appeal from the Electoral Officer of the State to the Chief Electoral Officer for Australia. To that extent, the Bill appears to enlarge the opportunities for securing a recount.

Clause 25 provides for the addition to section 1 61 a of the following new subclause -

(3)   If the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State refuses, on the request of a candidate, to direct a recount of any ballot-papers, the candidate may, in writing, appeal to the Chief Electoral Officer to direct a recount of those ballot-papers, and the Chief Electoral Officer may, as he thinks fit, either direct a recount of the ballot-papers or refuse the appeal.

If it merely stopped at that, I should say that the Bill was to be commended in allowing a candidate in the State to appeal from the local officer to the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth. But the Bill does not stop there. It makes provision, in clause 26, for the insertion of a new section 16 ib, sub-clause 3 of which I shall read, in order that there may be no misunderstanding - " (3.) In the event of the validity of the election being disputed the Court of Disputed Returns may consider any ballot-papers which were reserved for the decision of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State, but shall not order any further recount of the whole or any part of the ballot-papers in connexion with the election unless it is satisfied that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary."

How can a Court possibly be certain that a mistake has been made, unless it has a recount to ascertain the fact? If I bring a parcel of ballot-papers, and lay them on Une table of the Senate, how can any honorable senator determine, before he recounts them, that a mistake has been made? Yet it is provided, in clause 26, that the Court shall not order a recount unless it is satisfied beforehand that some mistake or error in connexion with the counting has been made which renders a recount necessary. I defy any honorable senator to show that the Court can, in any way, have the evidence that a mistake has been made except by the recount which it has not the right to order unless it has evidence beforehand. Having read the provision, let me direct attention to what might happen. A candidate, dissatisfied with the count, or regarding the figures as sufficiently close between himself and his opponent, appeals to the State officer for a recount. The State officer, probably satisfied with the accuracy of his staff and his own count, refuses the application. The candidate then appeals to the Chief Electoral Officer, who, if he likes, can also refuse a recount. If the application is refused in that way, it is proposed to prevent the Court from ordering a recount at all. I hold that any candidate is entitled to a recount if he feels justified in incurring the risk of an appeal to the Court. He ought, at least, to have one recount. If it is contended that all that is desired here is to prevent a double recount, I see much to commend the provision. But as it stands, it leaves the candidate in this position : If the Chief Electoral Officer declines a recount, there is no possibility of getting it before the Court. I hope that, in Committee, the Govern: ment will recognise the unreasonableness of a provision of that kind, and will at least assist in securing an amendment to the effect that the Court shall only turn down an application for a recount where that has previously been carried through by either the Chief Electoral Officer or the officer for the State. As the Bill stands, the only time that a candidate can apply for a recount is before the declaration of the poll. Take the case of a Senate election. Can any honorable senator say before the declaration of the poll whether he will be entitled to ask for a recount or not? I ask honorable senators to recall their experience of disputed elections. I cannot recall a single case, in which a recount has been authorized, where there was not a disturb;ance of the totals of the respective candidates. That has generally happened in regard to elections for the House of Representatives, where only a small parcel of votes had to be dealt with, and where, generally speaking, there were only two candidates. How much greater is the liability to error when you are dealing with an election for the Senate, which involves thousands of votes for the tens and units which are involved in the case of an election for the other House? How much greater, too, is the liability to error when you are dealing with a much larger field of candidates?

Senator Walker - At the first Senate election in New South Wales we had fifty candidates.

Senator MILLEN - Yes.

Senator McGregor - Oh !

Senator MILLEN - The Minister may attempt to push that statement on one side ; but it is a fact. Even he cannot brush facts aside.

Senator McGregor - There might have been fifty candidates for an election for the House of Representatives.

Senator MILLEN - In the case of one Senate election in New South Wales we had fifty candidates.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - And a tremendous number of informal votes owing to that:

Senator MILLEN - Exactly. On that occasion the lead between the two parties was so substantial that the matter dropped at that. But let us assume that the voting had been fairly even. Does any honorable senator say that a candidate should not have the right to apply for a recount ?

Senator Needham - There is no danger of such a crop of candidates occurring again.

Senator MILLEN - At the last Senate election in New South Wales, we had ten candidates for three seats. The votes polled were 450,000, spread over ten candidates. Let us apply to these figures the experience where a recount has been ordered in a disputed election. In the case of the Riverina election, which went before the Court, an application for a recount was made to the Electoral Officer, and it was refused. It was stated by the Court that, had a recount been granted, it would have saved the whole cost of that disputed election. There was a case where they were dealing with only two candidates, and quite a small parcel of votes. Do honorable senators regard one or two per cent. as a big error in the counting of a large parcel of votes? I think that they will agree with me that one per cent. would not be a big error. Applying that rule to the Senate election in New South Wales, you will have between 4,000 and 5,000 votes to represent one per cent. I can quite conceive that an officer would say to a candidate, who was from 4,000 to 10,000 votes behind, " I shall not order a recount, because, in my opinion, the margin is sufficiently big. It is not possible for my officers to make such a mistake as you suggest. I refuse to believe that the Department over which I have control could make such a great error." But the error is not big, when it is spread over a large parcel of the votes involved.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And with the mistakes all on one side?

Senator MILLEN -I do not know that they were, nor is it relevant to the point I am arguing, namely, that a candidate ought to have a recount if he so desires. There was another election which will perhaps come more prominently before the minds of honorable senators, and that is a Senate election in which Senator Vardon was involved. Need I remind the Senate of the grotesque discoveries which were made?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I was in it, too.

Senator MILLEN - I thought so, because there was some very curious work involved in the election. I am much obliged to my honorable friend for the reminder.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I got out of it at once. The Judge said I had no right to be in it.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator can bear out the statement I am about to make. There was a case where a recount showed how liable to error are even the best officials; we all are. When you are dealing with big parcels of votes, there is nothing more natural than an assumption that somewhere or other a mistake will occur. In other Electoral Bills we provided that a recount should be allowed to an applicant if he desired it, and was prepared to take the necessary steps to make an application for an appeal.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In one of the subdivisions in South Australia the Deputy Returning Officer said that he had burned the ballot-papers, but they were discovered afterwards.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly. That is a very interesting fact, but it does not bear on the point. Ought a candidate to have a right to a recount irrespective of what an Electoral Officer thinks ? As the Bill stands, if the Electoral Officer of the State and, on appeal, the Chief Electoral Officer say that there can be no recount, it cannot be obtained from the Court, because the Court will haveno option in the matter. In an election for the House of Representatives, an Electoral Officer can, of his own volition, order a recount, but he cannot do so in the case of a Senate election.I should like to know, why not? It seems to me that if there is an occasion in connexion with which the officers should have every opportunity of exercising the greatest care and vigilance it is in connexion with the elections for the Senate. Because of the factors I have mentioned, the liability to error must be greater than in the case of elections for the other House. Yet, whilst nn Electoral Officer can, of his own volition, if he think fit, order a recount in the case of the other House, he cannot do so in the case of an election for the Senate. That is so curious that I am rather inclined to think that it is due to an oversight. I hope that the Government will admit that in this matter the Bill provides more than thev desired, and that the clause placing a disability on the Court has been drafted on the assumption that a recount has previously been held. In my reference to the

Riverina election, I overlooked the fact that I had in my hand an extract from the report of the case -

In the Riverina, election it was proved that mistakes occurred in the count of the votes by an Assistant Returning Officer. One of the candidates requested a recount by the Divisional Returning Officer before the declaration of the poll. Acting on the advice of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of New South Wales it was refused.

There was a statement made by the Committee appointed to inquire into the matter, that had a recount been granted, as it clearly ought to have been, the error would atonce have been discovered, and a serious wrong prevented. When that is the position in regard to a simple matter of counting 2,000 or 3,000 votes for an election for the House of Representatives, how much greater, I repeat, is the necessity for some other provision than that in the Bill when you are dealing with an election for a whole State?

I come now to a matter equally serious, but of a different type. As I read the Bill, power is given to add names to the electoral roll right up to the close of the poll, or, in fact, at any time. Is that intended ? I should like to ask the Minister - although he is not in charge of the Bill, he is, I assume, watching its progress - whether the Government intend that it shall, be open to add names to the roll even while the poll is in progress?

Senator Findley - To which clause are you referring?

Senator MILLEN - I am not asking the Minister for an interpretation of clause 10. Surely he knows his own Bill? Surely he ought to know what the Government desire to do with the Bill ? And, if he does not, it is rather a lack of courtesy that the Minister in charge of the Bill is not here.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator will get all the information that he desires.

Senator MILLEN - It is not a matter of what I want; it is a lack of courtesy to the Senate when the Minister in charge of the Bill absents himself. We had a right to expect and receive the assistance of the one man who of all others should be familiar with what is in the Bill. That Senator Findley does not know its contents is, of course, only to be expected ; and, in making that remark, I make no reflection upon him, because it is a common-sense practice for one Minister to master a Bill which he introduces, and for his colleagues to attend to other matters in which the Ministry as a whole are interested.

Senator McGregor - Senator Findley has charge of this Bill.

Senator MILLEN - How is it that Senator Pearce moved the second reading of the Bill?

Senator McGregor - Because Senator Findley was laid up.

Senator MILLEN - If Senator Findley is in charge of the Bill, I withdraw the remark I made as to the absence of the Minister of Defence. If Senator Findley is immersed in the Bill, he can at once tell me whether the intention is to allow names to be, added to the roll even whilst the polling is in progress?

Senator Findley - I am unable to follow the honorable senator. I cannot read into the Bill any provision for a voter to enroll right up to the eve of an election.

Senator MILLEN - Then I take it that it is not the desire or intention that names shall be added to the roll while the poll is in progress?

Senator Findley - Certainly not.

Senator MILLEN - If that is so, I have to show that a serious error has been made in drafting the Bill, and to invite the co-operation of the Ministry in correcting the error. Clause 10 reads -

Section sixty-four of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) thereof the words "except under the provision of sub-section (2.) of section sixty-two."

Let us go to the Act, and see what it provides at present, and what effect the insertion of that clause would have. Now let us see what the Act provides at present, that we may know what effect the addition of these words will have. I find that section 62 of the existing Act provides that -

In addition to other powers of alteration conferred by this Act, rolls may be altered by the Electoral Registrar as follows -

I direct attention to the fact that no limit as to the time when these alterations may be made is provided for -

(a)   By correcting any obvious mistake or omission ;

(b)   By changing on the written application of an elector the original name or address of the elector to an altered name or address ;

(c)   By striking out the names of dead persons ;

(d)   By reinstating any name struck out by mistake as the name of a dead person.

The section then goes on to say - (2.) Rolls may be altered by the Divisional Returning Officer by adding the names of any persons who he is satisfied are entitled to be enrolled.

It will be seen that if that section stood alone, the Electoral Registrar could add to the rolls the names of any one he was satisfied was entitled to be enrolled, and at any time.

Senator Blakey - I think it is a misprint. In the Bill I have, the reference in clause 10 is to sub-section 3 of section 62.

Senator MILLEN - I am very grateful for this effort to save me from a pitfall ; but if I do fall into one, I prefer to get out of it in my own way. I think I shall be able to show that there is no misprint. This Bill gives the Electoral Registrar power to add names to the electoral roll.

Senator Findley - No.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator says it does not, but what does section 62 of the existing Act mean if it does not mean that the Divisional Returning Officer may add names to the roll? I refer the Minister to that section again.

Senator Findley - Not up to the polling day.

Senator MILLEN - As I have said, if that section stood alone, the Electoral Registrar could add names up to the time of the close of the poll ; but section 64, which it is now proposed to alter, provides that no alteration shall be made after the issue of the writ until the close of the poll. Now it is proposed to nullify that provision hy adding, at the end of sub-section 1, the words - " except under the provision of sub-section (2) of section sixty-two."

Senator Blakey - That should be subsection 3.

Senator MILLEN - There is no subsection 3 of section 62. If there is, all I can say is that it is extraordinary that I should have been furnished with an incorrect Bill. I am referring to the measure which was distributed to me by the officials of the House.

Senator Blakey - Clause 9 of this Bill will add a sub-section 3 to section 62 of the existing Act.

Senator Findley - If the honorable senator will look at the Bill which has been circulated, containing the principal Act and the amendments proposed to be made by this Bill, he will better understand what he is talking about.

Senator MILLEN - When the Minister tells me that I will better understand what I am talking about, I should like to ask him whether, for the second time, on one page we have a misprint placed in our hands ?

Senator Henderson - The honorable senator has the wrong Bill.

Senator MILLEN - I have the Bill which was introduced in the Senate and read a first time, and the clause to which I am referring reads -

Section sixty-four of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section 1 thereof the words " except under the provisions of sub-section (2) of section sixty-two."

Senator Blakey - My Bill reads " subsection (3) of section sixty-two."

Senator MILLEN - The Bill to which the honorable senator refers me was not introduced in the Senate. If honorable senators choose to bring here a library of light literature it has nothing whatever to do with me. I am dealing with the Bill introduced by the. Minister, and if I am now to be told for the second time, and almost before the ink used in the printing of the Bill has become dry, that there is another misprint, and that after eighteen months of office the Government cannot introduce a Bill without mistakes of this kind, all I can say is that it is a very serious reflection upon the Ministry and the Departmental officials that they could not exercise greater care in the preparation of measures to be submitted to Parliament.

Senator Chataway - There are ten other misprints yet.

Senator MILLEN - Then I should like to know what they are. How is it possible for any honorable senator to discuss a Bill distributed by the officials, when after reading it and coming to the only conclusion to which he could come from its contents, he is met with the statement, " Oh, it is a misprint " ? It is carelessness glorified when honorable senators attempt to defend that kind of thing. I do not know whether the same answer will not be given to other criticisms I have to offer on the measure.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator might in justice admit that" what he refers to are not printers' errors, or due to the fault of the Government, but are proposed amendments of the existing Act.

Senator MILLEN - If the Government had justice done them, I am afraid there would be great mourning in the honorable senator's family. I am told that this mistake has arisen from the fact that after this Bill was brought in it was proposed to make another addition to section 62 by a further amendment, which evidently was not thought of when the original Bill was drafted. There was no sub-section 3 of section 62 at that time, and there is not now.

Senator Ready - There will be.

Senator MILLEN - If honorable senators are satisfied to cover up a scandalous piece of carelessness by an interjection of that kind, I cannot help them. The attempt to escape from the dilemma in that way is not worthy of the Government, and it would have been far better if they had admitted that they had made a mistake.

Senator O'Keefe - But, admitting that the mistake has been made, the honorable senator's argument is destroyed.

Senator MILLEN - Exactly; but I am not satisfied on the point, and I cannot expect the Senate to wait until I have an opportunity to consider the effect of the proposals made in a document other than that which is officially before the Senate. These are no doubt useful forms for the assistance of honorable senators, but all I can be expected to deal with is the Bill which was read here a first time, and the only Bill of which you, sir, can have any knowledge.

I should like to say a word as to the proposal to have all the voting on Saturday. I have not yet made up my mind whether that is or is not desirable, but I think it is right at this stage to say that we should not make the innovation unless it is quite clear that it will be an advantage to the great body of electors.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There is no doubt of that in South Australia.

Senator MILLEN - We should, before we make the proposed alteration, see whether it will advantage the ininterests of the whole of the community. I know that in certain States Saturday is the great half-holiday, but that in the country districts, in many places, Wednesday is the weekly halfholiday. I know, also, that members of the Hebrew faith do not approve of the proposed alteration. Senator Pearce, in referring to that point, said that the Hebrew Sunday closed at 6 o'clock p.m. ; but I have since ascertained that the statement was not accurate. The hour is a movable one, dependent upon the period of the year, sunset being the determining factor. In addition, there are other members of the community, who, because of religious scruples, will not vote on that day. Further, I point out that the great bulk of our military training under the Defence Act is going to be done on the Saturday afternoon. In view of all these factors, it is a matter of balancing the advantages which will be conferred by the alteration on one section of the community with the disad vantages which would be imposed upon another. I have said that I have not definitely made up my mind on the matter, and I shall be glad to listen to arguments which would go to show that the proposed change is desirable. People belonging to some of the smaller sects in the community will not vote on the Saturday, and the mere fact that they are small will not justify us in brushing their representations on one side. The conscience of a man who is a member of a small section should be just as tenderly regarded by us as that of a man who might belong to a dominant majority.

I now come to what I think will, in the judgment of every one, be admitted to be the two major points in this BillThe first is the proposal to curtail very seriously the voting facilities enjoyed by electors at present. I refer to the proposal for the abolition of postal voting.

Senator Henderson - It is a good job ; we will wipe it out.

Senator Chataway - It is not wiped out yet.

Senator Henderson - It will be.

Senator MILLEN - I should like, when Senator Henderson becomes calm, to make an admission that, so far as the members of the Government party are concerned, they are entirely consistent in their opposition to postal voting. That will probably induce them to listen to the arguments I have to advance as to why I think that, in their regard for party interests, they are altogether overlooking the interests of the electors. Since I have been a member of the Senate, the Labour party have opposed postal voting. If we turn to the debates which, from time to time, have taken place on the subject, we shall find ample evidence, I think, to justify the statement that the system is being opposed by honorable senators opposite because they believe that the bulk of the postal votes are given against them.

Senator Ready - Because the system has been abused.

Senator MILLEN - With his long knowledge of parliamentary procedure, Senator Ready affirms that the system has been abused. It is somewhat curious that some time ago, I think after the first Federal election, a Parliamentary Committee was appointed to inquire into this very matter. Certain allegations of abuse were made, principally in my own State. Of course, the mere fact that the abuse was alleged to have occurred in that State should have at once answered the charge.

However, Parliament decided 'to constitute a Committee to inquire .into the matter. Since the Committee were unanimous, we need not inquire in what proportion it embraced representatives of the different political parties. The Committee were unanimous in their, finding, and did not recommend the abolition of postal voting,, though they pointed out that safeguards, which have since been adopted, were necessary..' -I repeatthat there-- is enough in our past debates on the subject to show that honorable senators opposite are opposed to postal voting simply because they think it tells against their party.

Senator Barker - I do not think so from an experience of twenty-five years.

Senator MILLEN - I am now going to ask : Who are the electors whom my honorable friends opposite are in this instance seeking to disfranchise? I refer honorable senators to section 109 of the existing Act-

An elector who -

(a)   has reason to believe that he will not during the hours of polling on polling day be within five miles of any pollingplace for the Division for which he is enrolled.

Senator Story - Is there not another provision made to allow him to vote?

Senator MILLEN - No.

Senator Henderson - Yes.

Senator MILLEN - Where is there a provision in this Bill to enable a man who is not within 5 miles of a polling place on the polling day, to record his vote? Senators Story and. Henderson have emphatically asserted that there is such a provision. I challenge them to show me where it is. Senator Story is silent, and Senator Henderson is mute. Ample provision is made as to a man who may be leaving Australia for the last time, a man who is shaking the dust from his feet; but as to the man who is a permanent resident, a pioneer in the back-blocks of Australia, honorable senators opposite say, practically, "We will strike you off the roll." That is the first class of electors who are to be disfranchised by this Bill.

Senator Henderson - The back-blocks man never voted by post in his life. It is the city man who has used the postal vote.

Senator MILLEN - If the back-blocks' man does not vote by post, there is no reason, so far as he is concerned, why we should abolish postal voting. But the fact is that the system was introduced especially to provide for those who, for some reason or another, might on polling day be 5 miles away from a polling-place. The next class of persons to be disfranchised is indicated by the next paragraph of the section from which I am quoting, and includes any elector who-

(b)   being . a woman will, on account of illhealth be unable to attend the polling-place on polling day to vote.

The Government propose to deprive such women of the right to exercise a vote. .

Senator O'Keefe - They can vote under another provision. ,

Senator MILLEN - Which provision? Senators Story and Henderson are how quiet, and I put the- question to Senator O'Keefe. Under which provision of this Bill could a woman, suffering from illhealth, exercise her vote?

Senator O'Keefe - She could vote beforehand.

Senator MILLEN - I ask Senator O'Keefe to name the clause.

Senator O'Keefe - I may be wrong, but 1, am under that impression.

Senator MILLEN - If Senator O'Keefe finds that he is wrong will he vote with "me to prevent the abolition of postal voting?

Senator O'Keefe - I shall have to be satisfied that the honorable senator is right.

Senator MILLEN - Senator O'Keefe tells me that a woman, under the circumstances referred to, can still vote, and I ask him to tell me how, and to show me .the clause in this Bill under which, she can vote. >

Senator O'Keefe - I cannot do so. at the moment, but I am under that impression. " :

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator could for the moment deny 'my statement, but for the moment he 'cannot find any justification for his denial. I have dealt with two classes of electors whom this great Democratic party are seeking to disfranchise. There is still a third class, the electors who -

(c)   will be prevented by serious illness .or infirmity from attending the polling-place on polling day to vote.

The Government are proposing to shut them out also. I want to know if honorable senators who are supporting this Bill, liecause of their party allegiance, realize what they are doing in this matter ? If they want safeguards in regard to postal voting', we will give them all the safeguards they may desire. We will help them to get anything that is requisite. I, in no sense, advocate postal voting, or any other electoral facility with the view of enabling a corrupt verdict to be obtained a't: the polls. But this Senate will be. taking a retrograde step, and doing something in direct opposition to all that we profess to desire, if it does anything to deprive any considerable number of the electors of the facilities which enable them to record their votes at the ballot-box. It cannot be repeated too often that this matter is not going to be settled by any predominant party in this Chamber. I venture to say that the electors themselves will strongly resent this effort to take away from those who are sick, those who are aged and infirm, those who are at inconvenient distances from polling booths, and from women who are ill, the right they have hitherto enjoyed of expressing their political convictions at the ballot-box, in common with the more fortunate members of the community. It cannot be said that there has been a public outcry against this provision for postal voting. And why ? The only outcry has been on the part of politicians in this Chamber, and elsewhere, against the postal voting system, and it will be found, on looking at the complaints made, that the whole charge has been that the bulk of the postal votes have been cast against the party opposite. That is why they are opposed to postal voting. I have no doubt that Senator Story, Senator Henderson, and probably even Senator O'Keefe, were misled when they interjected that the provisions made in this Bill, by which electors may vote at any polling place in Australia, are in substitution for the postal voting provisions. What satisfaction is it to a man who is five miles from a polling place to tell him that he can vote at another polling place in another part of Australia? If he cannot go five miles, what satisfaction is it to tell him that he can vote 50 01 a too miles away ? What satisfaction is it to an old and infirm elector to be told that, inasmuch as, because of his infirmity, he cannot go to one polling booth, which is comparatively near to him, the law will permit him to go to a polling booth 50 miles away ? What satisfaction is it to a woman - who is equally a citizen with ourselves, equally compelled to obey the law, and equally entitled to exercise a vote in regard to the making of the law - to be told that, because she is in ill-health, and is unable to go to the nearest polling booth, she can go to a polling booth more remote, and vote there? And that is what honorable senators opposite call a "substitute." lt is an impudent pretence to call this a "substitute." There is no substitute. All that the Government propose to do is to take away the only means of voting which a large number of people possess, and they give to them nothing in return. It is true that additional facilities are being given to another class of electors', but that is no "substitute" to those from whom you are taking away a right which they have hitherto enjoyed. I say again, that if the party opposite adhere to that attitude, they must not for a moment regard the matter as having been finally disposed of by a vote in this Chamber. I venture to say that when the position is explained to the electors they will resent the effort to deprive them of the opportunities which they enjoy only once in three years of taking an active part in the political affairs of the Commonwealth.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have often travelled 50 miki! to vote.

Senator MILLEN - And because Senator W. Russell has travelled 50 miles to vote, is that a reason why a woman, who is unable, through ill-health, to go out of her home, should not be allowed to vote at all?

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - People in the country have facilities for travelling which many people in towns have not.

Senator MILLEN - -I should like to know what facilities the honorable senator offers, or thinks can be enjoyed, by a nian who, for instance, is struggling with a drought.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - He generally has a horse.

Senator MILLEN - But any one who has ever lived in a part of the country afflicted will know - no one knows better than my friend - that when a man is compelled to buy feed for a horse at expensive prices, he does not want to drive that horse a mile more than is absolutely necessary. I have actually known men to walk for miles during a drought so as to save their horses. But what does the possession of even twenty horses do to help a woman who is in ill-health to vote on polling day? What would the possession of a hundred horses do to assist an infirm person who was unable to travel to the polling booth? If they had all the horses in Australia, it would not help them.

Senator Story - Does not the Bill interfere with the "poor widow " as well?

Senator MILLEN - I can quite understand that Senator Story- who interjected just now with no very great satisfaction to himself - should be anxious to draw attention away from the point at issue, which I am trying to hammer home.

Senator Story - The provision the honorable senator is defending is doing harm.

Senator MILLEN - What answer will the honorable senator have to make to the electors when they learn that Senator Story, of South Australia, has deliberately voted to take from the sick, the aged, and the infirm, and those remote from polling places, the right which they have hitherto enjoyed of voting at Commonwealth elections? The only defence the honorable senator and his party can make for their attitude is, " You who exercised the postal vote voted against me and my party, and this is our means of getting even with you."

Senator Story - We can also show that the postal vote was corruptly used.

Senator MILLEN - Then what have this Government been doing that they have not put into operation the provisions ot the law against corruption? Are we to suppose that we have in office a Government which, knowing that the law has been broken, and that corruption has been rampant, have still remained silent? Why did not Senator Story, knowing of this corruption - and we may be sure that he would never have made the charge unless he had ample means of proving it - go to the Government, furnish them with his proof, and induce them to put the law in motion?

Senator Story - The honorable senator knows that postal voting has been corruptly used.

Senator MILLEN - I know nothing of the kind. If the honorable senator knows, why did he not put his proof in the hands of the Attorney-General's Department and let a prosecution follow ? The fact is that these rumours of corruption spring, not from knowledge of actual facts, but from the recognition that the postal vote, as a rule, is adverse to the interests of the honorable senator's party. Therefore, accepting these rumours greedily, as they do, they send them forth without making any effort to prove thern.

Senator Story - The postal vote was corruptly used by the other party.

Senator MILLEN - I should like to show honorable senators to what extent the absent vote has been used. At the last election, in 1910, 1,400,000 votes were polled. I am disregarding the odd numbers. At that same election 29,000 postal votes were recorded. That represents 3 per cent. of the total number of votes polled - 1 in 31. That is to say, that there were 29,000 electors in the Commonwealth who were either more than five miles from a polling-booth, or who were old and infirm, or who being women, were too ill to record their votes personally.

Senator Story - Or too lazy.

Senator MILLEN - I do not see anything in the Electoral Act to show that a lazy person would be entitled to a postal vote. If the honorable senator means that these 29,000 persons were lazy voters-

Senator Story - I say that some were probably lazy.

Senator MILLEN - Now if is " some of them." Supposing there were some who were lazy. Is that a justification for depriving those who were not lazy of the opportunities for voting that they now enjoy?

Senator Story - If it is the only way to prevent corruption, yes.

Senator MILLEN - This talk of corruption is nothing better than child's play. It is used to cover up the real purpose for which this provision is introduced. I say again, that 29,000 electors, or 3 per cent, of those who voted, used this privilege. It is obvious, therefore, that it is one that ought not to be lightly taken away from them ; and whilst it may be - I have no knowledge of it myself - that things occurred which make it desirable to provide other safeguards, still no evidence has yet been brought forward . to justify this attempt to take the privilege away altogether - except, asI say, the belief firmly held by my honorable friends opposite that the bulk of these postal votes are cast against them and their party. But is that a reason? Is that a justification for taking from electors facilities for voting which they at present enjoy?

Senator Findley - We can quite understand the honorable senator's vigour. He knows what postal voting means to his party.

Senator MILLEN - I have no knowledge as to how the postal votes are cast ; but it is a curious thing to me that honorable senators opposite appear to know.

Senator de Largie - Do not the figures show how the votes go?

Senator MILLEN - I do not know how they can.

Senator Rae - Suppose that two candidates are equal on the votes cast at the ballot-box, and that postal votes come in and disturb the balance. That is how we know.

Senator MILLEN - That may be so. But if you take the figures as to the bulk of the postal votes cast in the Commonwealth, there is no indication as to the party which they incline to favour.

Senator de Largie - The figures published at elections generally show how many postal votes are recorded.

Senator MILLEN - I am glad of these interjections, because they demonstrate the truth of what I am stating - that my honorable friends opposite recognise, or believe, that the bulk of the postal votes are cast against their party.

Senator de Largie - We do not recognise anything of the kind. I was simply answering the honorable senator's statement that we did not know how they go. Every one knows who takes an interest in the matter.

Senator MILLEN - Well, I take a great interest in the matter, and I have never seen figures showing in detail how the postal votes go. It is, however, evident that Senator de Largie has looked into the facts concerning these 29,000 electors whom my honorable friends opposite are proposing to disfranchise.

Senator Gardiner - Because of the corrupt way in which the honorable senator's canvassers used the postal voting papers.

Senator MILLEN - Here is another statement about corruption.

Senator Gardiner - I can prove what I say.

Senator MILLEN - Why, then, did not the honorable senator bring his evidence before the Law Courts?

Senator Gardiner - Because it was not worth while, as the corruption did not win the seat in which I was interested.

Senator MILLEN - These statements as to corruption are made with regard to everything that does not suit the political fortunes of my honorable friends opposite. They are very effective statements to make from hotel verandahs and political platforms, but they do not carry much weight elsewhere. They certainly do not carry much weight with people who do not want to make up their minds unless they have definite evidence before them.

Senator Gardiner - Was it not corruption when a hospital patient asked to have a postal voting paper supplied to him, and when he wanted to vote Labour, it was taken away? Would the honorable senator call that corruption ?

Senator MILLEN - Of course I should.

Senator Gardiner - Well, that occurred.

Senator MILLEN - There is a provision of the Electoral Act that would cover such a case. I could remind my honorable friends opposite of a case which came before the Law Courts in New South Wales where members of their party tampered with the electoral machinery and were fined for doing it.

Senator Gardiner - To what case is the honorable senator referring?

Senator MILLEN - I am referring to facts that are well within the knowledge of the honorable senator.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator should state them. I do not know.

Senator MILLEN - My honorable friend knows all about them.

Senator Gardiner - I know that the honorable senator is misrepresenting the position.

Senator MILLEN - The honorable senator recollects a case in which charges were made against members of Labour Leagues of tampering with the electoral machinery, though the fines, of course, were remitted by the Government.

Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator know-

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